When you think of ‘kids that skate good’ in freestyle, you probably first think of places like Japan and Romania. Well, the UK is now also harbouring young talent – and I thought it important to first of all give recognition to their achievements and ability, and second to try to get an idea of what might make freestyle hit a bit more with the younger generation.
Ben Carter, 14, from Bristol is a newcomer to freestyle, and the rate of his progression has been hard to ignore. The types of tricks he’s landing and sequencing together are no small feat given his short time on the board so far. Ben gave up some of his skating time to talk to us, so we could try to get an idea of why, and how he is doing it…
UKFSA: How long have you been freestyling, Ben?
Ben Carter: I have been specifically freestyle skateboarding for one year but skating for a total of two years.
UKFSA: You have progressed fast for one year. Not only are you doing some difficult tricks but you’re also learning them fast. Recently you’ve mastered carousels, broken fingers, and a myriad of fingerflips. Where are you learning your tricks from?
Ben: I’ve learnt a few from Mike Osterman’s and Tony Gale’s trick tips, but I get most of my inspiration for learning new tricks from just watching skate videos – Marvelous 2 is for sure my favourite to watch!
UKFSA: Oh yeah, Toshiaki and Masahiro might be my two favourite skaters to watch, I watch that DVD all time! Please tell us about the moment when you became aware of freestyle, how did you find out about it?
Ben: Well when I started skateboarding I had no idea that freestyle even existed until I saw one of Mike’s YouTube videos, I was completely blown away. After that I was just trying a few freestyle tricks here and there until I really got into it.
UKFSA: A lot of people, myself included, start out freestyling on street setups. They tend to find out about, and make the jump to, freestyle boards later. Was that the case for you also?
Ben: It definitely was. I was freestyle skateboarding on my street setup for a few months before I got my first freestyle board, it was very expensive but it completely changed my skating. I remember my first one was the Moonshine Tony Gale board, it was great!
UKFSA: Purpose built freestyle boards can make a lot of difference. What setup are you riding now? And do you mod your boards, like bushings, extra washers, wood screws etc?
Ben: I’m currently riding the new Never Enough Zappy Concave with Independent 109s and some 95a Seismic wheels. I’ve finally got round to getting some harder bushings and I’m riding with riser pads. I really can’t ride without riser pads anymore. I really need to get some wood screws for my board though, I do so many caspers.
UKFSA: Yeah, caspers will eat through your board. I really like frontside caspers at the moment and they even chew up the wood screws in no time! How are you finding the harder bushings?
Ben: Really strange right now coming from riding some much softer ones.
UKFSA: You get used to them, I fear for my ankle ligaments skating freestyle on soft bushings nowadays. One thing that surprised me when I switched to freestyle boards was the number of different shapes of the decks. Have you found that perfect shape yet?
Ben: I don’t know, I’ve loved all the boards I’ve had so far. If I had to pick one I would say my favourite one so far is the one I’m riding right now (the Never Enough Zappy Concave). But to be honest I don’t really think about what I ride, just as long as its built for freestyle I’ll have a great time on it.
UKFSA: Do any of your friends skate, and do they freestyle?
Ben: I’m trying to teach a few of them and they seem to enjoy it but I think if I were to quit (which I’m in no way planning to) they would quit as well. I did teach one of my friends to do a tail stop fingerflip the other day though. I mostly skate on my own which I don’t mind.
UKFSA: Is there anything that you feel that freestyle, particularly in the UK, needs in order to appeal to a younger audience such as yourself?
Ben: I think that we just need to show more people freestyle skating (through demos or other means) because I feel that a lot more people would start doing it because not everyone can go to a skate park every day or has access to a good skate spot. You can do freestyle skateboarding anywhere, you only need a skateboard and some flatground.
UKFSA: Favourite skaters?
Ben: Oh I’ve got so many! I’ll only name a few. Masahiro Fujii, Toshiaki Fujii, Reece Archibald, Tony Gale, Denham Hill, Mike Osterman and Yuta Fujii.
UKFSA: Tips for sticking a carousel? (For a friend, haha)
Ben: Haha, I just held onto a wall to start with and then just slowly let go until I finally did it. I would also recommend wearing a knee pad because my knees had completely turned purple by the time I landed it! I’m pretty sure Mike did a good trick tip on them.
UKFSA: Will we see you in the Am’s at any competitions in the future?
Ben: Hopefully, I’m probably going to try to go to any competitions that I can, they look like so much fun. I might be able to go to one in Germany at some point, I go there every year.